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4 Rohingya died duirng 4-month wait

Rohingya migrants receive medical treatment at Hua Sai station, Nakhon Si Thammarat province, on Monday. (Photo by Nujaree Raekrun)

January 12, 2015

Packed into pickup trucks, half-starving and struggling for air, the 98 Rohingya Muslims apprehended over the weekend in Nakhon Si Thammarat province turned out to be the lucky ones. Interviews with the migrants Monday revealed four never made it to shore. 

Stuck on boats for four months, four of the Myanmar migrants died as traffickers waited offshore amid heavy patrols from the Thai navy.

A Ministry of Justice translator reported the story to police at the Hua Sai station on Monday as authorities continued to collect information on the 30 adults and 68 children under age 18 pulled from five vehicles at a checkpoint in Hua Sai district.

Of the group, 42 were boys and girls under the age of 14.

The drivers of three vehicles fled the scene. Only two drivers were arrested. They were identified as Sawat Phadungchart, 29, of Ranong's Suksamran district, and Suthipong Chuaypat, 49, of Surat Thani's Chaiya district.

Police told Reuters all the migrants were "very thin and tired." They were so tightly packed in the trucks that one woman, about age 20, suffocated as they travelled from Phangnga province to Sadao district in Songkhla province, Police told AFP she had not eaten.

The migrants told the translator that each of them had to pay 40,000-50,000 baht to Thai traffickers to arrange for their trip to Songkhla.

Staffs of Hua Sai Hospital treated the migrants at the Hua Sai police station on Monday. They were suffering from fever, exhaustion and muscle inflammation. Some of them needed further treatment at the hospital.

Thai villagers and police were providing the migrants including children with clothes, foods, sweets and drinking water.

Authorities have in recent weeks discovered scores of other migrants who fled dire conditions in Myanmar, taking advantage of the slightly calmer winter waters in the Andaman Sea to head south.

On Jan 5, police detained 53 migrants from Myanmar - the majority of them Rohingya - in Phangnga, a hub for boatpeople being transported through Thailand to mainly Muslim Malaysia.

Thousands of Rohingya have fled deadly communal unrest in Myanmar's Rakhine state since 2012.

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